There's a great deal of disparity when it comes to representation of dark skin women in mainstream media. Instead of providing a wide range of “dark skin women” identity types, mainstream media tends to sum it up into one type of “dark skin woman”. I feel that millennials are crying for more identity expressions in mainstream media then the current ones we view. The media tends to present a straggling few representations of darker women, which also tend to also be the most ill-viewed version of dark women. Conveying to viewers an extremely limited representation in the mainstream media and to a more crippling extreme: in realty. A prime example of this theory is the lack of representation of dark-skin women actors in many Bollywood movies. This lack of representation leads many people to believe that all Indians are light, when in fact there's an existing and prevailing population of dark Indian women, and contrary to popular belief not all Indians are fair and light.
This colorism that is in mainstream also ties into the next topic of a complex idea that there exists a pressure to bleach one's skin in communities of color. I feel like the term “pressure” comes from a more afflicting point of view. Because keep in mind in many instances skin bleaching is so cultural to a community that the “pressure” isn't really felt or even existing to a specific individual. I truly believe in a lot of cultures, more specifically in my culture: Senegalese, West African, skin bleaching can almost be called a right a passage. For example, if all the women around have been doing it since a little girl's birth, when that little girl watches television and sees only light women represented, she starts to internalize the idea that “Lighter women are more beautiful, skin bleaching is the only way to be beautiful”. For a long time communities across the globe have been convinced that darker women are less beautiful. We’ve internalized it and made it almost instinctual. Unless a young girl is trained to see herself as beautiful, and see more positive representation of herself in media, then she won’t be able to break this black-hating internalized habit.
Therefore dark-skin role models are extremely important. Hands down the most inspirational person to me would be Gabrielle Union. I’m not sure if it’s her ass-kicking character in Being Mary Jane or her twitter clapbacks, but she’s my ideal representation of black women empowerment! She shows that black women ARE and CAN be highly educated. She shows that black women don’t need saving, we can win our own battles with elegance and remarkable style. She shows that black women can be beautiful, gentle and fierce all in one entity. What I also truly appreciate is that she shows that black women can hurt and be broken; however, we are and will always be unrelentless..striving to move forward until we’ve conquered it all! Gabrielle Union personifies black girl beauty!
I’m going to touch on my personal journey with finding the beauty in being a dark skinned woman. I’m not sure if it’s sad or just pure reality, but I did not begin to feel beautiful until people around me began telling me I was beautiful. As a 12 year old dark-skin black girl sometimes a little reassurance and affirmation is all you really need to feel empowered. At twelve, I remembered taking my baby brother to daycare and an older woman told me “ little girl you’re so pretty”. At first I was bewildered, wondering if she was really speaking to me, being its was my first time genuinely hearing those words. When I realized it was a compliment for-and-towards me I felt gifted, that woman planted a seed inside me that began to grow and flourish. That one affirmation that I received, became my joy. Whenever I felt low or appalling, I remembered that someone saw me one day and automatically thought I was beautiful. I now apply this experience when interacting with little black girls. If we're not telling each other that we are beautiful, then who else will? When it came to my dark skin I just knew it wasn’t considered beautiful. From always being seen as the darkest because I was african, to even hearing my mother make comments about my hair or the darkness of my skin. Sometimes I found myself envious of other black women with more european-like features. That envy grew a little more during the dating age, when other girls were seen as more alluring than I did. I shrugged it off and kept focusing on excelling academically and eventually the confidence came with the brains to know better. I feel like a great starting step to finding your beauty is to look in the mirror and write down all the things you DO like about yourself. Remind yourself daily things like“ Oh, I got beautiful lips and eyes!” and “my skin glows” and eventually everything else will start to look beautiful too...AFFIRMATION IS KEY to SELF- LOVE!